The European Union approves the AstraZeneca vaccine, amid criticism for its late doses

The European Medicines Agency, Friday, approved the AstraZeneca vaccine against the emerging corona virus for all people over the age of 18, saying it believes the vaccine is also suitable for the elderly, at a time Brussels criticizes the company for its delay In deliveries.

The Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency said in a statement that it had recommended "granting a conditional marketing authorization for the AstraZeneca vaccine (...) to persons over the age of 18 years."

For its part, Hungary, which criticizes Brussels for its "slowness", has become the first country in the European Union to authorize the use of the Chinese Sinopharm laboratory vaccine, after its authorization last week to use the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine.

On Friday morning, the agency confirmed in a statement that there was no connection between the Pfizer / Bionic vaccine and the deaths recorded among people who received it. She said that she had seen the deaths recorded, including those that occurred among a number of elderly people, and "concluded that the data do not show any relationship to the order to receive + Commernate + (Pfizer vaccine) and the cases do not raise any concerns about safety."

The giant Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis signed a contract with the Pfizer-Biontech Alliance to help produce its vaccine, after the cost-effectiveness of its factories decreased.

This comes against the background of the high number of cases of the disease and the increase of anxiety in Europe and abroad, as mutated versions of the virus are rampant that raise questions about the effectiveness of vaccines against it.

On Friday, ambassadors from European Union member states approved new recommendations of the European Commission (a map of the most affected areas, and tighter restrictions on movement) aimed at "discouraging badly unnecessary travel while avoiding closing borders or imposing a general travel ban."

In turn, the World Health Organization called for maintaining a high level of vigilance in Europe, as several countries imposed border restrictions of varying severity.

On a parallel line, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert team on Friday began its highly sensitive investigations into the sources of the epidemic in Wuhan, central China, where the disease first appeared in 2019.

Investigators will visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was conducting studies on Corona viruses, in addition to markets and hospitals.

And the United States, where the first cases of the mutated South African version of Covid-19 were detected, called for a "clear and in-depth" investigation. However, Beijing feared the finger of blame, and it responded by rejecting all "political interference".

On January 12, the British laboratory, AstraZeneca, formally requested licensing of its vaccine in the European Union as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

On Thursday, the German Vaccination Committee considered that the AstraZeneca vaccine "is currently recommended only for persons between the ages of 18 and 65 years" because "the currently available data are insufficient to assess the effectiveness of vaccines" for people over the age of 65 years.

The German Minister of Health, Jens Young, had the same position on Friday morning, saying that he expected approval of the use of the vaccine with the imposition of "restrictions" on people over the age of 65 years.

AstraZeneca responded to its spokesperson, who confirmed that "the latest tests (...) confirm the effectiveness of the vaccine in a group of over 65 years of age."

The AstraZeneca vaccine has become the third to receive the green light from the European Medicines Agency, after the Pfizer / Bionic vaccine on December 21 and Moderna on January 6.

The Swedish-British group AstraZeneca has been angering European Union leaders for days, due to the delay in vaccine deliveries.

In the context of this dispute, the European Commission on Friday published the contract signed last year with AstraZeneca to pre-order doses of his vaccine, but full parts were covered for reasons related to confidentiality.

A few days ago, Brussels had asked AstraZeneca to agree to publish the contract.

AstraZeneca announced last week a decline in the production of one of its factories in Europe, which will lead to the delivery of the European Union "a quarter" of the agreed doses during the first quarter of the year.

But Brussels, which pre-ordered up to 400 million doses of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine, is not convinced of the laboratory justifications and considers them "unsatisfactory", and has requested an inspection of the laboratory's factory in Belgium.

A spokesman for the Belgian Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products told AFP on Thursday evening that the inspection had taken place and that "some documents and data" had been seized and "under examination."

European countries complain of the slow production of vaccines developed in record time.

However, 70 percent of the doses produced are currently used in rich countries (Europe, the United States and the Gulf countries).

Globally, COVID-19 has killed at least 2,191,865 people, and injured more than 101,436,360 people since late December 2019, according to an AFP census on Friday.

Similar to last week, the spread of the virus has slowed dramatically around the world (-11%), but the numbers are still high (564,300 new infections per day on average, and only Thursday 16,326 deaths and 589,862 new infections were counted).

According to the World Health Organization, the new mutated versions of the virus do not cease to spread: the British version has become widespread in 70 countries, while the South African version has been detected in 31 countries.

In the United States, the country most affected by the virus in the world (more than 433,206 deaths), the first two cases of the mutated version, South Africa, were detected in the state of South Carolina.

And the American companies Novavax and Johnson & Johnson announced that their vaccine, which is still in the trial stage, is less effective against the South African version. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine showed a general effectiveness of 66 percent, while the Novavax vaccine showed an efficacy of 89.3, and the latter confirmed that it would quickly start developing another vaccine targeting the South African mutated version.


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